Foreign Ministry announces Turkey to withdraw from Syria’s Afrin

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy on Monday announced that Turkey would be withdrawing from the northern Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, which has been at the heart of an ongoing cross-border military operation by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), Turkish news site Arti Gerçek reported.

Operation Olive Branch began on Jan. 20 with roughly 5,000 Turkish soldiers, supported by 10,000 Syrian Arab fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Turkey stressed that its goal to clear Afrin canton of north-west Aleppo that borders Turkey of what Turkish President Recep Erdoğan called “terrorists” – the majority-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

‘’We are leaving Afrin to the people of Afrin,’’ the site reported Aksoy as saying during a live press conference on state-run TRT television in Afrin where 32 media organizations from six different countries were in attendance.

The spokesman pointed out that the residents of Afrin established their own municipal parliament comprising Kurds, Turks and Arabs and that security and military forces were slowly withdrawing from the region.

‘’Turkey will continue to stay here for a while,’’ Aksoy said noting that he cannot at this point say how long it will take for a full withdrawal.